Ken Harrison 8:30 a.m., Nov. 18
Mayor's Aide, Noted for Stonewalling, Explains Practices to National Public Radio
Darren Pudgil, longtime public relations aide and defacto gatekeeper for San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders, is quoted today by National Public Radio about how he controls media access to his boss:
"'We don't let anyone in that we're not familiar with,' [says Pudgil], press secretary for San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders (R), 'and, yes, we're very good about checking press credentials.'
"Pudgil says there are security concerns involved, as well as the worry that someone who identifies him or herself as a blogger or tweeter might turn out to be an activist with an agenda who will show up at a news conference with the intention of embarrassing his boss.
"'We're very open and we're very transparent, but we're very thorough in checking out who we let have access to the mayor,'" Pudgil says."
Of couse, as with most things political, there's a bit more to the story.
Longtime city hall watchers know that Pudgil and the mayor's office are often accused of being less than forthcoming when it comes to handling requests for public information regarding all city offices, whether from the media or local citizenry.
Back in July 2009, the VoiceOfSandiego.Org, San Diego's non-profit news site, even mounted a long-running "Pudgil Watch" to monitor the press aide's repeated stonewalling of public records act requests.
Our own attempts over the years to obtain records and information from the mayor's office have been met with unreturned calls.
In 2010, we unearthed an email exchange begtween then-deputy press aide Rachel Laing and the city Environmental Services Department’s public information officer José Ysea.
Ysea explained to Laing he was worried that the Reader had started following his official Twitter feed:
“Hey, I know that the Reader is off limits as far as giving information and interviews… Do you want this to apply to Twitter?” said Ysea’s email.
“I did notice that they are currently following Mayor Sanders as well.”
Continued Ysea: “I can certainly block them, actually, I would prefer to block them to avoid them receiving a twitter message from me and then having them call wanting to receive more information.
'What is your recommendation.”
Laing, a prolific tweeter herself, responded:
“Thanks for asking,” she wrote. “No need to block them. The info is in the public domain, so you have to expect anything you put out there can be used or quoted by any news media, just like our Web content.
"However, their seeing something on Twitter or a Web site that interests them does not automatically grant them right to interviews, and we should continue to refrain from talking to them.”
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